The word inflammation comes from the Latin "inflammo," meaning "I set alight, I ignite." Lots of things can be associated with inflammation - words, for example! Actions might be considered inflammatory as well. When considering inflammation with respect to health-wellness-disease and in our current series on Frailty, typically, it would refer to a reaction of the immune system. Inflammation in the body can be either acute (sudden, intense, often life-threatening, injury or infection) or chronic (persistent, long lasting, difficult to eradicate). For our purposes of building a framework on how to improve and reduce the impact frailty has on our lives, we will be considering the chronic state of inflammation.
The easiest way to quantify or track inflammation is usually by blood tests. There are different blood cells and other markers that indicate the presence or absence of inflammation in the body and that can even tell you if it is associated with a specific disease. Again, for our purposes, we are not looking for specific diseases, but how the general concept of inflammation can be impacting our health and weakening our systems. It has been found that several markers can be helpful in identifying the degree of chronic inflammation in the body and, in turn, the degree of frailty:
- Cytokine IL-6
- C-Reactive Protein
- Increase in the total number of monocytes (a type of white blood cell) and the total white blood cell count
According to the article in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society that we have been discussing:
"Higher levels of these same inflammatory cytokines correlate with greater vulnerability to disability and mortality (death), further supporting a role for these biologically active molecules and system is the development of poor health outcomes."
Just a little further on, the authors indicate:
"Multiple lines of evidence demonstrate a biological link between elevated IL-6 and bone and muscle loss, anemia, insulin resistance (diabetes), and altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis stimulation (sex and other hormones) making it less likely that IL-6 is simply a benign marker."
TRANSLATION: The presence of the above blood markers, even in the absence of a frank disease state, are correlated to loss of bone density, muscle tone, anemia, adult onset diabetes, lower sex hormones and an increased likely-hood of death!
Andrew Wiel, M.D. has a really nice article that outlines some ways you can improve these blood markers without drugs. In short, it says to exercise more and lose weight!
It is not a big reach that what you eat, in addition to driving up your weight, could increase your blood markers for inflammation. The best explanation and recommendation packet I have ever come across is by Dr. David Seamen. If you are serious about cleaning up your diet and reducing inflammation in you system, read this packet.
Finally, but I am sure not the last word on the subject, there was a real interesting article that came out of Carnegie Mellon University describing how mindful meditation reduced levels of IL-6 in a specific population. Though I am not big on general meditation (as a Christian, I think your mind needs to be engaged someplace specific), this article shows just how powerful your thoughts and mind can be. It is worth considering.
So, if you want to improve your health and decrease the impact and effects of frailty in your life: exercise, eat right and be mindful in your thoughts.
Until Next Week,
Doug Williams, D.C. Care Chiropractic Lafayette, Indiana